Being an environmentalist

Biology was my favorite subject in high school and I think that made me decide to take up Environmental Science as a course in the university. But I feel like it’s in my blood. I belong to the Ibaloi indigenous ethnic group and as most indigenous people are, they are more connected to the earth. Or maybe I just like trees and mountains, and the natural world. And we’re supposed to be stewards of God’s creation anyway, right?

“Oh, that is so nice of you, trying to protect the environment.” That’s what I usually hear. It’s such a noble cause, they say. But I also remember someone saying, environmentalism is a hopeless idealism. It can seemingly be like that because people have a tendency to self-destruct or perhaps it’s humanity’s plain stupidity. We’re polluting the air and the water, using up all our natural resources, killing animals, cutting down trees, all in the name of development, of feeding society’s insatiable need to consume, and keeping the pockets of corporations fat as ever.

In school, I got to learn more about natural resource management and environmentalism. I had fun climbing mountains, exploring caves, and counting plants and trees. I began volunteering for a local environmental NGO. As a campus journalist, I was able to write about different environmental issues.

Being an environmentalist was not a career but more of a lifestyle for me. It was difficult to look for environmental jobs to begin with. I didn’t want to work for the government and the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) because I didn’t want to lose my idealism early on. So I took jobs unrelated to my course but I always tried to influence people to be more environment-friendly. I encouraged my co-workers to segregate waste. I gave talks on climate change. I urged my friends to volunteer and plant trees.

Now, I work for a solar energy company and I volunteer for Greenpeace Philippines and Climate Reality Project giving me more opportunities for environmental advocacy work. It surprises me how there aren’t a lot of environmentalists around considering the urgency of solving environmental problems. Those who claim to care for the environment don’t do a lot. Don’t get me wrong, every little contribution counts but at the rate of how fast we are destroying the planet, we should be more aggressive in taking action.

Last week, I joined Chikapihan with Yeb Sano, an informal environmental discussion event with the Executive Director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia and I asked him this question: “Reducing consumption is one way of helping the planet but how can we effectively do this when the very system requires us to consume?” Yeb admits that this is a challenge but the key is balance. He said there’s no single solution. That reducing consumption should be in a cultural or massive scale in order to make an impact. He added that the best way to change the system is to replace it with a new one.

Today is Environment Day and June is Environment Month in the Philippines. Once again, this is a reminder to take positive environmental action to protect nature and the planet Earth. In the words of Bob Marley which is one of Yeb’s favorite quotes, “The people who were trying to make this world worse are not taking the day off, how can I?”

So hopeless idealism this may be, it’s worth the shot. Let’s care a little bit more for the sake of the planet, our future, and ourselves.

#IAmHampasLupa Youth Campaigners in Action

We, the #IAmHampasLupa Youth Campaigners wish to change the way people see food and farming. Hampas-Lupa, usually used as a derogatory term referring to people in poverty, translates to “tilling the land” and there’s nothing wrong about that.

We call on the next president to include food security, nutrition, and ecological agriculture in their political agenda.

We want concrete action on issues of food security exacerbated by the effects of climate change and El Nino.

Join us in pushing for a safe, sustainable, and climate resilient way of farming.

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#IAmHampasLupa Youth Campaigners join the Tinig ng 10 Milyon para sa Kalikasan Green Thumb Coalition Earth Day March on April 22, 2016. (c) Marvin Almonte
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“If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make the change.” The campaigners dancing to Man in the Mirror on Earth Day. (c) Virginia Benosa
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We are one with the fisher folks on their call for presidential candidates to address issues involving coastal communities and deteriorating fishing grounds (April 24, 2016). (c) Marvin Almonte
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Unity bike for Kidapawan farmers on April 23, 2016, organized by campaigners in Mindanao.
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Silent protest asking the presidentiables what they can do to address food security issues (April 24, 2016). (c) Manila Bulletin
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Join us this 27th of April for the National Solidarity Dance Mob for food security, farmers, and ecological agriculture happening simultaneously in Baguio, Manila, Bacolod, Cebu, and Davao.

 

 

It’s April Fools Day but the Food Crisis in Mindanao is No Joke!

Climate change is real. Al Gore has been talking about it for years now. We didn’t listen or we just didn’t care.

As early as November 2014, PAGASA has already released dry condition advisory in the Philippines. We didn’t listen or we just didn’t care.

Several cities in Mindanao are now under state of calamity due to El Nino. People are going hungry. Farmers protested. Chaos. Injury. Death. Are we listening? Do we even care?

Government office candidates are campaigning for the nearing election. Promising to address issues, to help the poor, to feed the hungry. We know they don’t really listen and a lot of them don’t care.

It’s our call. We have to start listening to the cries of nature. We wouldn’t be where we are now if only we cared more for the environment.

Trivializing environment issues vs. taking a stand

The presidential candidates during the recent debate in Cebu seem to have trivialized environment issues. We just don’t want to believe what we see. Al Gore, during the Climate Reality Project training explained that these environment issues are almost a spiritual problem. Are we trying to fill life’s emptiness with consumerism and destruction which stop us from facing the reality? Are we so consumed with greed and apathy that we don’t see what our only planet is turning into?

It’s all doom and gloom. But I’m encouraged to see individuals taking a stand, doing what they can for the environment. Be inspired by their initiatives.

 

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The Cordillera Ecological Center and A Tree A Day led the Walk for the International Day of Forests and Trees. Headed by environmental activist, Michael Bengwayan, Baguio residents protest against all forms of tree cutting.

 

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Cebu City Councilor Nestor Archival’s eco-house, a house close to nature, demonstrates how we can live sustainably. The eco-house features renewable energy source through solar panels and biogas, organic farming, aquaponics, vermicomposting, recycling, and waste management. (c)Hazel Aghon

 

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Nanay Gloria embraces the four laws of ecology in farming: everything is connected to everything else, everything must go somewhere else, nature knows best, and there is no such thing as a free lunch. (c) Jenny Tuazon/Greenpeace Philippines

 

 

Musings on Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project

Back in college, I read Al Gore’s book, “Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit” and I was amazed and inspired by how passionate he was about promoting climate change awareness. Today, I had the opportunity to witness his presentation during the 31st Climate Reality Leadership Corps training held in Manila.

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Al Gore

It was sad to once again be confronted by the realities of climate change. Why did we allow our planet to be in its current state? Global warming, melting ice caps, rising sea levels, extreme weather conditions, typhoons, droughts. The presentation which included video clips of raging floods, disintegrating glaciers, forest fires, and people crying as they talk about lost lives and properties due to natural disasters was heartbreaking. What’s worst, as Pope Francis, in his Encyclical letter, states, the gravest effect of all attacks on the environment are suffered by the poorest.

Global systems vulnerable to climate are food supply, water, health, and infrastructure. Al Gore further stressed that there is a risk of food security in the Philippines because of climate change.

I know Al Gore didn’t want me to feel depressed but this is the inconvenient truth we oh, so try to ignore. It is real. It is urgent. But it is also solvable. One of the solutions Gore focused on is shifting from coal to renewable source of energy. Incidentally, the solar power company I’m working for, SolarPacific, would be inaugurating its first solar farm in Misamis Oriental this week so I’m happy that somehow we are contributing to the solution.

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The 12.5 MWp Kirahon Solar Power Plant at Misamis Oriental.

And speaking of solutions, I remember how environmental advocates in Baguio, headed by one of my mentors, Michael Bengwayan, an environmental activist, are organizing a march for the trees on March 21 celebrating the International Day of Forest.

There are so many initiatives being done to stop climate change. The 650 strong participants of the Climate Reality Project, have been pitching in and have committed to continue contributing to the solution.

Al Gore said it best, “The will to act is in itself a renewable resource.” May we continue harnessing this resource.

 

Making Sense of Food Security

MakeSense, a community of more than 20,000 volunteers around the world who help social entrepreneurs solve their challenges, organized MKS Room – a discussion on food security at A Space Makati on March 10, 2016.

Virginia Benosa-Llorin, Food for Life Campaigner at Greenpeace Philippines, which campaigns for behavior change and political action on food security provided an overview of the agriculture sector in the Philippines. She also talked about the #IAmHampasLupa ecological agriculture campaign.

Solutions to the challenges in agriculture were presented by Rachel De Villa, CTO & Founder of Cropital, the first crowd-funding platform to invest in farmers; and Melanie Sacay, Founder of Aquaponics Philippines, which supports the growth of aquaponics throughout the country through guides, tutorials, and resources.

Amalia and Benito, a musical duo and co-founders of Kayumanggi Organics, performed during the event and also talked about their proudly Filipino, sustainable, and healthy products.

MKS Rooms are live events that blend musical and cultural performances and discussions with social entrepreneurs. Each event is centered on a specific cause with the goal of generating attention, fostering exchanges, and creating traction towards positive change.

#IAmHampasLupa for Food Sovereignty and Food Sufficiency

According to Greenpeace, the world produces more than enough food to feed all of us. However, almost 1 billion people go to sleep hungry every night. Around 1 billion are overweight or obese. And 30% of the world’s food is wasted.

In the Philippines, farming is looked down on. It doesn’t come as a surprise then that the average age of farmers in the country is 57. Their income per year is less than $500. They don’t even own the lands they farm.

Considering all these realities, Greenpeace Philippines came up with its #IAmHampasLupa Campaign. The word hampaslupa is a derogatory term to characterize someone in extreme poverty. Its literal translation though is to hit or till the soil which farmers do. The campaign then aims to change this negative perception towards farmers and farming in general.

What can you do to support this movement?

Challenge yourself and pledge your support for ecological agriculture.

Support local farmers by buying their produce.

Eat more organically grown fruits and vegetables. Lessen meat consumption. And don’t waste food.

You can also try to grow your own food through container or urban gardening.

Together, we can achieve food sovereignty and food sufficiency.

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